Viareggio Carnival

Discover one of the most famous events in Italy

 

'Carnevale è come un sogno
di lussuria e di splendore,
passan facili le ore
nel suo sogno di beltà...

 

Did you know that the Viareggio Carnival Festival is one of the most important and famous events of Europe? If not, then we at toscanainside.com are here to tell you what it is and why it is well worth a visit!

First of all, the special feature of the Viareggio Carnival are the gigantic colourful papier-mâché carnival floats built with elaborate gadgets and depicting politicians and celebrities in a comic way. The main theme and the spirit, as always, of the Carnival of Viareggio is the political and social satire along with songs and awards. The Viareggio Carnival costumes and the Viareggio Carnival parade with amazing floats and local parties help to create a special and carefree atmosphere.

Come and discover with us the Carnival of Viareggio and the place where these great structures and lightweight papier-mâché constructions are built and visit the Viareggio Carnival museum where inside you can discover the Carnival of Viareggio history.

The landscape also allows you to take a look at the fascinating, mysterious sea in winter just waiting to be photographed! So, prepare for a colourful celebration full of fun at the Viareggio Carnival in Italy!

Carnival Viareggio
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THE CARNIVAL OF VIAREGGIO HISTORY dates back to 1873: the procession of carriages (this was the custom in the 19th century) along the historic Via Regia expressed the bourgeois protest against the excessive taxation that wealthy citizens were subjected to.
Other sources claim that the idea of creating a carnival event saw its birth in the premises of Cafe Casino, a well-known meeting place for young and wealthy inhabitants of Viareggio. A carnival festival of bourgeois origins, the Viareggio carnival later turned into a celebratory festival in which it is possible to express your own ideas and mock the powerful.

Imagine the young with a great desire to express themselves and to party, gathered in a smoky cafè, someone more streetwise, someone shy or snobbish…young people from the late 19th century motivated by the desire to create a rich and sumptuous event to masquerade and mask the whole town. From that Mardi Gras on 1873, the Carnival of Viareggio has continued to develop and specialize in the art of papier-mâché and satire. Despite the rise of the middle-class area, the Carnival at Viareggio has later involved the entire population to become a symbol of a city and collective time in which social positions and standards of behaviour are completely reversed. That group of young people has allowed the nobles living in high places to get out of their homes and to celebrate one of the highlights of the year in the streets of the city! 

At the end of the 19th century, floats made their appearance in the Viareggio Carnival parade: at the beginning the floats were made from plaster, canvas and wood, and they were heavy and less ductile than the papier-mâché used today which was introduced in 1930s.

The advent of World War I led to a long break in the Carnival in Tuscany which was started again in 1921 in the middle of the fascist era. 1921 was an important year for the development of this great folk event since the first songs of the Carnival of Viareggio was composed, which later became the official anthem, with the title of 'The Carnival in Viareggio'. The song is also known as 'On the Cup of Champagne' and was written by Icilio Sadun who drew inspiration from the text of a poem by Lelio Maffei. 

Its verses contain the deep meaning of the Carnival of Viareggio, a frantic, irrational, noisy party, but above all, able to chase away the sadness and to revive the playful and ironic spirit of the people. Did you ever think that wearing a mask could contain so many possibilities and sweep away gloom and sadness? 

Going back to the Viareggio Carnival history, in the 20s the carnival began to be publicized and promoted thanks to the magazine 'Viareggio masked' and the event was accompanied by the sounds of the band that gave a further boost to the festive atmosphere of cheerful masks and floats. The Carnival of Viareggio at that time was really taking off: as of 1925 floats were built with the technique of paper and cast - or papier-mâché - and began to have some movements! Finally, builders were able to indulge themselves with articulated sculptures creating real spectacular giants. The material in addition to being lightweight and flexible was also extremely cheap! 

The mask symbol of the Viareggio Carnival was created later, in 1930, by the Futurist painter Uberto Bonetti. The figure of the Burlamacco mask was inspired by the tradition of the Commedia dell'Arte and, with regard to the name, by the 'Burlamacca' channel in Viareggio and the character of Buffalmacco by Boccaccio. The main innovation of Burlamacco is its futuristic costume, which consists of a tubular suit made of red and white diamond pattern, a black pompom on its chest, a red hat, a dark coat and a face like a clown! 

The 50s of the so-called economic boom started with a rebirth of the Carnival of Viareggio. RAI chose it as a great event for its first live television program which then was aired in Eurovision. The event has continued to grow and has become a great attraction to this day. 

Every year the program of the Carnival of Viareggio is rich in events that attract politicians, celebrities and a large crowd of curious fans. The festivities including Carnival nights in Viareggio last for about a month alternating floats, parades, neighbourhoods festivals, shows, exhibitions, children's events, night parties, balls, masked parades and shows of all sorts. Are you ready to enter this crazy circle of fun?

 

HERE COME THE FLOATS! The Carnival of Viareggio is famous for its parade of floats but how are they made? How are these spectacular sculptures parading above us between music and confetti built? As I mentioned earlier, once the materials used were relatively ductile and made it difficult to give rise to movements and creations similar to those that we see today. The material that has replaced wood and textiles is papier-mâché. Similar to the clay for its ability modelling, it is prepared by bringing together water, glue, plaster and paper!

The floats of the Carnival of Viareggio are created by pouring plaster on a model in order to have a negative and inside the float drivers (sculptors of wagons) apply strips of paper soaked in water and glue to give a more solid structure. The next stage is dedicated to a long drying time which is followed by sanding and decorating. The light busts of politicians, eyes of famous singers, dressed in mythological characters are painted with acrylic paint and covered with shiny varnish to protect the bright colours.

The first papier-mâché sculpture created for the Viareggio Carnival dates back to 1925 by Antonio d'Arliano.

These often grotesque masks, ironic and at the same time melancholic figures, make you probably think about the director Federico Fellini. There comes to mind the Carnival scene in 'I Vitelloni' where Alberto Sordi is dancing with the head of a large puppet. A famous artist and tank crewman, Arnaldo Galli, in fact collaborated in the creation of the props in the film 'Casanova' and 'Boccaccio' 70'.

The art of papier-mâché, which was started by the Carnival of Viareggio, also served as a backdrop of the opening ceremony of the World Cup in Italy ‘90 and the closure of the XX Olympic Winter Games in 2006!

 

THE CITADEL OF THE CARNIVAL AT VIAREGGIO has since 2001, in the north of the city, been a centre for the construction of the floats. This huge complex of hangars used for the processing of papier-mâché can be visited during the period of the Viareggio Carnival Italy whilst during the year, this area is an active cultural centre which hosts events, festivals and concerts such as the Gaber Festival dedicated to great songwriter from Milan.

In addition to visiting the art workshops, you should visit the two Viareggio Carnival Museums that are located here: a museum dedicated to the history of the Carnival of Viareggio and the other, called 'Carnevalotto', preserves an interesting collection of contemporary art linked to the tradition of the Carnival of Viareggio.

 

DISTRICT PARTIES. The Viareggio Carnival has given rise to events in the surrounding areas of the city. So, if you are curious and like to learn about the smaller areas where the folklore is alive and above all authentic, you can take part in local parties.
During the Carnival of Viareggio, the nearby districts such as Torre del Lago, Darsena, Marco Polo organize parties, amateur floats accompanied by food stands and banquets where you can eat fish at a good price. If you have small children it can be a good and safe alternative for them to play with more confidence.

 

ART & SONGS. The Viareggio Carnival has a special bond with the tradition of singing, besides the official hymn; every year the Festival of Burlamacco takes place, a music competition in which awards are presented for new songs of Carnival of Viareggio. The purpose of the event is to keep alive and spread the tradition of sounds and music that has always characterized and accompanied the Carnival of Viareggio. Each edition also allows you to discover new talents and performers who are passionate about this big Carnival in Tuscany.

In addition to music, paintings and art in general have also been inspired by the Viareggio Carnival and the suggestions of the floats and the irreverent spirit of the festivities. In particular, we remind you of some of the names that have left their mark with their words or their illustrations on the Carnival of Viareggio: Sergio Staino, Dario Fo and Jean-Michel Folon.

 

So, how about treating yourself to a dazzling Carnival at Viareggio and an unprecedented Mardi Gras and getting your children or just yourself entertained? Get organized with friends and create a themed masked group! You can play the characters in a Tarantino movie, dress as covers of famous novels, dress up the like the 'bad guys' of Walt Disney or have fun choosing a historical period and try to use a suitable jargon! Try and be an actor for just one day or wear a mask and tirelessly throw confetti around!

The Carnival at Viareggio offers all the possibilities of fun and liveliness with its waterfront full of local seafood restaurants... are you sure you want to go to the usual small party organized by your cousin and with the usual dress of Snow White pulled out of the trunk at the last moment?

Do not miss this opportunity to enjoy a great event where you will be the protagonists in a mask ... And the floats? Maybe you have seen them on television or in some photos, but we assure you that to see them live is something else! Forget the worries and seriousness, at the Carnival of Viareggio you can laugh at everything and everyone…

By Insidecom Editorial Staff